Issue 25 August 2013

MAV President's Update

Issue 25, August 2013

Federal election – HACC Call to Parties

This week, after feedback from members and ongoing input from the State Government, we launched our federal election Call To Parties. It calls upon political parties to commit to retaining and building on the strengths of our home and community care (HACC) system when it transfers to Commonwealth responsibility from 2015.

We want to see the role of local government as a partner in planning services for older people acknowledged, as well as federal funding to meet the real cost of providing HACC services, and assurance that a national competitive tendering process will not be applied in Victoria. We also indicate that councils’ ongoing $115 million voluntary contribution is not guaranteed and each council will make an assessment of the adequacy of the design and funding of the proposed national system in determining their role into the future.

The Call to Parties has been sent to the Prime Minister, Opposition Leader, leader of the Australian Greens and Victorian candidates contesting the Senate and House of Representatives. We’re also asking your council to brief local federal candidates on this issue prior to 7 September. You may like to provide candidates with a copy of the national 10-point plan released by the ALGA for resourcing community priorities.

Responses received from political parties will be published on our campaigns page.

Local government reform agenda

It was pleasing to see Minister Powell act on our request to conduct a review of council electoral processes following ongoing discussions with her about the 2012 elections. We have previously raised with the Minister a range of concerns about candidates, voter participation, complaint processes and vote counting systems. We look forward to participating in the review over the coming months to improve voter confidence and participation, and ensure the integrity of the local government election system.

You may have seen our Bulletin item this week about the Minister’s release of new guidelines (PDF - 249KB) for reducing red tape for members of committees and managers of public facilities. It was disappointing that these guidelines were not developed in partnership with councils, particularly given the scrutiny and criticism councils often attract for their governance practices, and the need to maintain transparency of appointments in accordance with requirements in the Local Government Act.

The Minister’s office is also having discussions with councils around the state about revisions to the Victorian State Local Government Agreement (VSLGA). I urge councillors to request that a renewed agreement maintains the underlying principle to prevent cost-shifting onto local government. The VSLGA historically gives effect to a national agreement between the Australian and state governments to stop further cost shifting to local government after a comprehensive review in 2003 confirmed the need for action. There have been many instances in recent years where cost shifting has continued to occur, and the revised Agreement must strengthen a whole-of-Government commitment to prevent it.

Referendum – update on campaign money

I’ve had a number of inquiries from Mayors and councillors about the return of voluntary levies contributed by councils towards the national ‘Say Yes’ referendum campaign. The MAV is continuing to work with the ALGA to have all monies returned to councils.

As recently reported by the ALGA, some Yes campaign spending was undertaken prior to Prime Minister Rudd announcing a new election date. This included pre-polling, market research, development of information kits, branded campaign materials, media training, a website and advertisements. This work proceeded on the basis that the referendum had been confirmed by the Government, with supporting legislation passed by Parliament. The decision not to proceed with the referendum was beyond local government’s control and the ALGA has requested that councils not be out-of-pocket for campaign expenses incurred.

As the Government is in caretaker mode, a decision on this matter cannot be finalised until further negotiations take place with the incoming Australian Government after 7 September. We will keep you updated and hope to have this matter resolved, and monies refunded as quickly as possible.

Planning reforms finalised

This month we saw the long-awaited finalisation of rural zones (PDF - 148KB) by Minister Guy following reforms earlier this year to residential, industrial and commercial zones. Developing a suite of rural zones that are relevant across Victoria is a tough task. While we welcome the inclusions of additional rural-related uses that support agricultural production, we acknowledge the tensions that could develop relating to some non-agricultural uses now permissible in the zones. A 12-month review to fine tune the provisions and address challenges that councils may experience is worthwhile.

Prior to next month’s expected launch of the draft Metropolitan Strategy, the MAV has now finalised our work with councils on a preferred model for the Metropolitan Planning Authority. Minister Guy sought input from the sector and the MAV reconvened our Metropolitan Strategy Reference Group and commissioned SGS Economics and Planning to identify a preferred role, functions and governance structure. This report has been circulated to councils and will be provided to the Minister for his consideration.

MAV Planning Improvement Conference

With so much change occurring in the planning space it’s only fitting that our third MAV Planning Improvement Conference coming up on 19 September will look at how councils are facing up to the challenges of change, and will examine opportunities to be more effective and efficient.

The conference will explore successful case studies of MAV STEP planning councils, as well as interactive sessions on the Stronger Enforcement Framework – Risk Assessment Tool and a master class on implementing VicSmart, the Government’s new 10-day process for assessing low impact planning permits.

View the conference program and register online here.

If there’s any issues you’d like to raise with me, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Warm regards